One of the people behind an effort to have three members of the Coastside Fire Protection District recalled from office has requested the court to have portions of their candidate statements deleted or amended because they are in violation of state elections code, according to a petition filed in Superior Court Monday.
The three on the board facing recall, President Doug Mackintosh, Director Mike Alifano and Director Gary Riddell, intend to ditch the district's contract with Cal Fire in favor of re-establishing a stand-alone fire department to serve the coast.
Marshall Ketchum, who led the signature-gathering effort last year to remove the three, alleges their candidate statements contain information that is false, misleading or inconsistent with state elections code.
The recall election is April 9 and since the candidate filing period closed Friday, any voter can challenge the candidate statements within 10 days before the County Elections Office prints any material related to the upcoming election.
Ketchum is hoping a judge will decide the matter as early as this week, his lawyer David Waggoner told the Daily Journal yesterday.
State law dictates that any candidate's statement be limited to "a recitation of the candidate's own personal background and qualifications.”
Mackintosh, Alifano and Riddell's statements all contain material that strayed from keeping to just background and touched on other topics such as a Cal Fire union effort to force the recall election and opinions related to Cal Fire's service.
Alifano told the Daily Journal yesterday that no one in the county's Election Office told him about the rules regarding candidate statements.
"I didn't know the rules,” Alifano said.
His candidate statement currently states: "Cal Fire has failed to perform by the terms of the contract,” and "Cal Fire's union starts and funds a recall effort on the very board members that are critical of their performance.”
Four people have qualified to challenge the three, including Karen Anderson, who is challenging Alifano; J.B. Cockrell, who is challenging MacKintosh; and Lee McKusick and Harvey Rarback, who are challenging Riddell in the upcoming special recall election.
Anderson, Cockrell, McKusick and Rarback's candidate statements all have similar statements, however, that also stray from their respective backgrounds and qualifications. Their statements are not being challenged in court yet, however.
"I wish all the statements would stick to background and qualifications,” Alifano said. "At the end of the day, it has to be a fair process for everyone.”
Part of private investigator Anderson's candidate statement currently reads: "If you were to call 911 right now for an ambulance, a crew of Cal Fire professionals would rush to your aid. But, come July 1, no one knows who will come, because these board directors decided that Cal Fire's services were no longer needed.”
Airline pilot Cockrell writes in his statement: "Cal Fire has improved service over and above what was provided by our previous, scandal-ridden stand-alone departments.” Cockrell served on the fire board from 2007 to 2009 and was key in bringing Cal Fire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, to the coast.
The board moved last year, however, to ditch its contract with Cal Fire on a 3-2 vote, with Mackintosh, Alifano and Riddell voting in the affirmative and Gary Burke and Ginny McShane voting against the proposal.
Burke and McShane are endorsing Cockrell's candidacy.
Cal Fire proponents say a stand-alone fire department will be too costly and short-staffed and are emboldened by a San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury reports that indicated Cal Fire serves the coast well.
A stand-alone fire department will rely on unbudgeted overtime and will cost at least $1.4 million per year more than Cal Fire over the next five years, recall proponents said.
But Mackintosh, Alifano and Riddell contend Cal Fire is not responsive to the needs of the coast and would be better served by having a fire chief who answers directly to the board.
The Coastside Fire Protection District serves Half Moon Bay, the unincorporated areas of Half Moon Bay and the unincorporated communities of Miramar, El Granada, Princeton-by-the-Sea, Moss Beach and Montara.
Previously, the Half Moon Bay Fire Protection District and Point Montara Fire Protection District provided service on the coast but the two consolidated in 2007 to form the Coastside Fire Protection District.
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